Partner View

Selling to the Big Dogs

More C-level execs are at the negotiation tables. Learn how to sell to them.

It seems like only yesterday that we were in the middle of the dot-com boom, when IT administrators' pockets were bursting with money to spend. Selling technology solutions was a whole lot easier then, when money flowed, in some cases, just to get rid of the extra budget at the end of the year. Times have sure changed.

Now, IT administrators no longer control IT spending. It's the people at the top who hold the purse strings. Today's CEOs, CFOs and CTOs are more involved in purchases, especially in IT. It is therefore more important than ever for resellers to recognize that selling to a C-level executive is different than selling to an IT administrator.

We've witnessed first-hand how C-level executives don't get excited about new technologies in the same way that IT administrators do. Because they aren't involved in the day-to-day administration of companies' IT infrastructures, executives see no reason to spend as long as things are running smoothly within the company. As the old saying goes, "If it ain't broke ...."

So, instead of talking to a CEO or CSO about the latest breakthrough in desktop management software or the most up-to-date server migration solution, our sales consultants have learned to focus on the overarching and more general issues that new technologies address. In our conversations with CEOs and CTOs, three important themes keep coming up: security, compliance and productivity. By talking about these three high-level pain points, our consultants are able to provide a compelling reason to invest in solution packages. We call this approach "top-down consulting."

Selling from the top down is one critical way in which resellers can improve their competitive stance in today's economic environment.

Top-Down Consulting
You must address a business need that catches the eye of the CEO or CTO. If salespeople can tie solutions back to business needs, C-level executives will see how the specific technology can increase the efficiency of the entire organization.

Here's how one of our consultants sold a technology solution to a CEO:

An IT administrator at one of our customer companies was interested in implementing a remote access application. At the time, employees who needed to work from home were sending documents to their personal e-mail accounts, working on them at home, then sending the final version back to their work e-mail addresses. The CEO of the company saw no need for a remote access application; to him, it seemed like an unnecessary IT expense.

Our consultant pointed out to the CEO the vulnerabilities that the current method created. Documents that could contain sensitive financial information were not being transmitted securely—a potential violation of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002. In addition, the consultant argued, the CEO wouldn't want confidential information to fall into the hands of a competitor or a hacker. Finally, the consultant talked about how implementing remote access could actually increase employee productivity by providing an easy way for employees to log on remotely in a secure fashion and work "after hours." In the end, the consultant sold the CEO a customized solution that addressed all those concerns.

The consultant didn't have to go into the nitty-gritty details of the product mix, but focused instead on highlighting how the product mix met the CEO's business needs.

Selling from the top down is one critical way in which resellers can improve their competitive stance in today's economic environment. Recognizing the difference between approaching an IT administrator versus selling to a CEO can mean a world of difference in each and every sale, and to your bottom line as well.

About the Author

Ken Michael is vice president and founder of ScriptLogic Corp. partner Dox Electronics Inc., a Rochester, N.Y.-based Microsoft Gold Certified Partner and Microsoft Certified Solution Provider. For more information, visit